The Impact of the French Occupation on Romangordo, Spain
By Pedro Prieto
Editor’s Note: Romangordo is significant for the studies of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain because it is the site of one of the few bridges across the Tagus River. The French occupied the region almost continuously from 1809 - 1812. It is usually easier to find information about a battle that is fought in the vicinity of a city or a village, than it is about the area itself. In conducting research for an update of the article The Destruction of the Bridge at Almaraz: 18 - 19 May 1812, Mr. Pedro Prieto was able to find much background information on the area and wrote the article Romangordo, Spain. Mr. Prieto also found information on the effect the three year French occupation had on the region.
The town of Romangordo sits on a high hill about 3.5 kilometers south southeast of “The Hill of the Fort”. An 18th Century Spanish Geographer sent a survey form to every village and town in Spain in 1786. Romangordo was listed as having 120 families, with 12 – 14 children born annually. The average family consisted of 4 – 5 people. According to Geographic, Historical, and Statisitcal Dictionary of Spain: 1845 - 1850 Romangordo at that time (1845) had 712 inhabitants and 130 families. The size of the average family was 5.47 people. Applying this average to to the 120 families living in Romangordo in 1786, the number of people was 656. According to the records of the local parish church, which go back to the 16th Century, 13 children were born in Romangordo in 1812 -- a similar birthrate to 1786. So the population of Romangordo in 1812 was probably about 650 people.
The French occupation also had an impact on the local church. The parish priest for the Romangordo area, Don Manuel Rosado Ribero, reported to the Bishop and other religious authorities of Plasencia's Bishopric about the effect of the French occupation on the financial situation of his parish. The priest was not only responsible for the local church, but he was also the administrator of a foundation set up by a lawyer, named Don Pedro Martinez de Masa. Don Pedro had donated many large houses, ranches and farms in the Romangordo area to the church. The priest was responsible for overseeing the properties and collecting rents.
Don Pedro had set to conditions on the donation:
By 1812, the economic situation in Romangordo was very serious. Over the years, the French, whose policy was to make war pay for itself, had demanded contributions of cattle and agricultural goods to support their troops. If the people were unable to or refused to pay, their houses and other properties were destroyed in retaliation. In three years, two houses owned by the church were destroyed and many others were damaged, along with houses in the town and the surrounding area. Many of the people had fled the area to escape the French and those remaining refused to rent the houses or farm the properties because they feared the French would take everything or burn them out.
Because of these problems, Don Rosado asked for permission to:
On 20 April 1812 the Ecclesiastic Court of the Plasencia Bishopric granted Don Manuel all that he asked, until the situation with his rents improved.
Despite the damage done to the various buildings in Romangordo, the town's church, with its 16th and 17th Century paintings, was not touched. However in one of the linen cloth panels, called the "Cuadro de las Ánimas" (which shows the Virgen del Camen and Santo Domingo -- the founder of the Dominicans -- floating above Purgatory), there is a hole about 1.5 centimeters in diameter. There is some speculation that the hole was caused by a bullet, shot to see if there were weapons hidden behind the panel!
Click on the image to see a larger picture.
We are fortunate to have copies of a certificate that contains the writ of the Ecclesiastic Court of Plasencia. They are in Spanish, but the Spanish of 200 years ago is not significantly different than that of today. Additionally, the certificate is interesting because of the paper it is written on -- the lettehead refers to King Fernando VII, who was in prison in France, not to Napoleon's brother, King Joseph, who was seated on the throne in Madrid at the time. For those interested in reading the originals or a translation of the originals, click on the link below.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2002
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